The Yellow Wallpaper: A Tragic Analysis

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In most interpretations of Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, it is usually deduced that John, the unnamed narrator’s husband in the short story, is a flat character that is used solely for plot advancement. This is most likely due to the combination of indirect discourse, an unreliable narrator, and the ambiguous ending that negatively impacts the reader’s opinion of him. But, if the reader views the short story as a tragedy, John plays a more impactful role in the story. By analyzing the story from an Aristotelian perspective of tragedy, John becomes Gilman’s unintentional tragic hero.
According to a pdf titled “Tragic Hero as Defined by Aristotle”, an Aristotelian tragic hero must possess certain characteristics. I’m going to be taking four of these characteristics and relating them to John to prove he is the tragic hero of “The Yellow Wallpaper”.
Firstly, one of the characteristics of a tragic hero is that they must have a hubris. “A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature” defines hubris as “The tragic flaw in a tragic hero…In Greek drama, heroes are punished for undue pride in themselves” (Guerin et. al 419). Like the Greek tragic hero Oedipus, John’s hubris is his excessive pride. Take this quote for example, “John is away all day, and even some nights when his …show more content…

He suddenly discovers the severity of his wife’s illness but she is too far gone now for him to act. This moment of silence is also the only time in the story where a reader would be able to feel pity for John, pity being an emotion that tragic characters usually elicit in a reader at some point in a tragedy. As mentioned earlier, an anagnorisis will usually make the reversal of fortune, or peripeteia, clear. In the case of “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the anagnorisis foreshadows or sets up the peripetia. When John is able to get the door open to the narrator’s room, this final scene takes

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